Suggestions for Nurturing Your Child's Mental Health

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1. As a parent, you are responsible for your child's physical safety and emotional well being. There is no one right way to raise a child. Parenting styles vary, but all caregivers should agree on expectations for your child.

2. Many good books are available in libraries or at bookstores on developmental stages, constructive problem solving, discipline styles, and other parenting skills. The following suggestions are not meant to be complete.

3. Do your best to provide a safe home and community for your child, as well as nutritious meals, regular health check-ups, immunizations, and exercise. Be aware of stages in child development so you don't expect too much or too little from your child.

4. Encourage your child to express his or her feelings, respect those feelings. Let your child know that everyone experiences pain, fear, anger, and anxiety. Try to learn the source of these feelings. Help your child express anger positively, without resorting to violence.

5. Promote mutual respect and trust. Keep your voice level down - even when you don't agree. Keep communication channels open.

6. Listen to your child. Use words and examples your child can understand. Encourage questions. Provide comfort and assurance. Be honest. Focus on the positives. Express your willingness to talk about any subject.

7. Are you setting a good example? Look at your own problem-solving and coping skills. Seek help if your child's feelings or behaviors overwhelm you or if you are unable to control your own frustration or anger.

8. Encourage your child's talents and accept limitations. Set goals based on the child's abilities and interests - not someone else's expectations. Don't compare your child's abilities to those of other children.

9. Celebrate accomplishments. Appreciate the uniqueness of your child. Spend time regularly with your child.

10. Foster your child's independence and self-worth. Help your child deal with life's ups and downs. Show confidence in your child's ability to handle problems and tackle new experiences.

11. Discipline constructively, fairly, and consistently. (Discipline is a form of teaching, not physical punishment.) All children and families are different; learn what is effective for your child. Show approval for positive behaviors. Help your child learn from his or her mistakes.

12. Love unconditionally. Teach the value of apologies, cooperation, patience, forgiveness, and consideration for others. Do not expect to be perfect; parenting is a difficult job.

Phone: 1-800-789-2647
TTY: 301-443-9006
Web site:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Center for Mental Health Services
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